Throughout history, there have come and gone many famous and industry inspiring restaurants and fast food chains that have altered the way our society think about food. While there is no limit to the types of dishes that are available at these various locations, one thing we often center around is chicken. There is nothing more comforting than eating a chicken based meal, and one of the greatest restaurants to sink your taste buds into juicy chicken is at Zaxby's. The restaurant chain has had quite a vibrant history since its beginning, and today, we are going to reveal to you twenty things that you more than likely didn't know about Zaxby's and all it has to offer. With that said, let's dive right into the history of the restaurant.
1. Long History
The restaurant chain itself was established in August of 1990, and the store is celebrating its 29th anniversary this year. The first location was actually opened in Statesboro, Georgia by Zach McLeroy and Tony Townley (who were also childhood friends). This is why the majority of their locations today are more prominent in the Southeastern region of the country.
2. Slow Expansion
While the company started in the early '90s in the heart of Georgia, Zaxby's itself didn't acquire any other locations outside of the state until 1994, when they opened a new location that was located in Bowling Green, Kentucky. There expansion has continued to remain at a slow pace during these last three decades, with the chain only having locations in about 18 states nationwide.
3. Inspiration From Another Source
While this may not be a surprise to many, it can be startling to think that many food chains, and even other businesses in various industries, draw their inspiration for food items and merchandise from other retailers of the same genre. This is the same case for Zaxby's; The restaurant chain lightly based their chicken recipe as well as their signature sauce recipe on a smaller chain called Guthrie's. Guthrie's is a food chain that was also located in Georgia near the University of Georgia.
4. Restaurant Theme
If you have ever been into a Zaxby's, you will notice that the interior is quite eccentric. Typically, the majority of their locations will feature a multitude of clever and vintage signs, décor, trinkets, and other objects that give it an almost retro feel. This interior for the locations was chosen to make the restaurant seem more casual, as its menu is also a bit more casual compared to other restaurant chains in the nation today.
5. Starry Eyed Ads
Once the restaurant chain had reached almost two decades in the industry, Zaxby's began releasing commercials that featured a great array of celebrities eating their food and sitting in local restaurants. Some of the celebs that made it into the commercial ads include Alyson Stoner, Mike Ditka, Paul Sorvino, Giuliana Rancic, Ryan Stiles, Little Richard, Chris Kattan, Lee Ann Womack, Jaime Pressly, Clay Matthews, Wayne Brady, and so many more. These commercials obviously got quite a bit of attention, and helped to bring even more popularity and status to the restaurant chain.
6. The Coca Cola Treatment
In 2013, the Zaxby's chain announced that they would be adding the Coca Cola Freestyle machine at the majority of their locations, bringing their fountain drink dispenser to a whole new level. To commemorate the major step within the chain, each of the locations also decorated their drink station areas with many vintage Coca Cola bran memorabilia, signs, and other similar logos to incorporate it with the theme of the interior.
7. The World Of Gaming
Zaxby's has also made an appearance in a video game at one point, which is definitely a sign that you are a restaurant chain to be reckoned with. The restaurant was featured as one of the restaurants along a street in the game called Midnight Club: Los Angeles. What makes this fact so ironic is that the restaurant chain has never opened a location anywhere in California in its history thus far. Funny how that works.
8. 'The Official Chicken Of Sports Fanz'
This is another name given to the Zaxby's restaurant chain, and for good reason. The chain had the collective property rights for about thirty Division I colleges, which works out as a sponsorship for the football and basketball teams for each college. The colleges are spread throughout twenty five states, and the sponsorship deal also includes seven different conferences. About ten of the colleges can be found in the Southeastern region of the States, which is also where the majority of Zaxby's locations are established (as we mentioned previously).
9. Other Sponsorship Deals
Not only was the Zaxby's company establishing sponsorship deals with several different college sports teams, but they also branched their way into sponsorship for another sport. The restaurant chain sponsored a couple of race car drivers, including John Wes Townley (Co-founder Tony Townley's son) during his time with NASCAR. Wes retired in 2016, which is also when the sponsorship ended for the restaurant chain.
10. Charitable Donations
Not only is the restaurant chain keen on sponsorship throughout the country, Zaxby's has also proven to be dedicated to children all over. This is why the company is known as a big supporter for the Make A Wish Foundation, and helps terminally ill children all across the country to make their wishes come true during their difficult time.
11. Signature Sauce
One of the menu items that Zaxby's is especially known for is their signature sauce lineup. Typically offered with their chicken wings and chicken finger menu items, the sauce has a 4 level spectrum, beginning with mild, then moderate (called their 'Zax sauce'), followed by their more intense heat 'Nuclear sauce', and lastly, their 'Insane sauce'. There is no messing with the recipe, which has become one of the staples of their restaurant chain in their almost three decade history.
12. It Is ALL About Flavor
When starting out in the restaurant industry, the founders new that they wanted something that stood out, and that would also stand out to the customers that they would get every day. Aside from having delicious chicken, McLeroy and Townley knew that one of the most important things to have in their restaurant was immense flavor. The majority of the population likes to dip their chicken into some type of sauce to make it more juicy and flavorful, which is why after three decades, the company still continues to perfect their already perfect sauce recipes, along with making tons of innovations during the process as well.
13. Only One CEO
This is something that is typically unheard of when it comes to any company that has been in the business for a long time, especially when it starts to get to three decades. However, it is definitely an awesome goal and standard to achieve. Zaxby's is one of the few companies that has had the same CEO for the entirety of its history, who is, of course, Zach McLeroy. He also stands as the President of the company and the Chairman of the board as well. Tony Townley, the other co founder of the company, stands as the CSO for Zaxby's.
14. Why The Chicken Business?
What started as a game of basketball between two friends quickly turned into the idea of having one of the best chicken based restaurants in all of Georgia. The idea itself stemmed from the fact that the two liked the chicken restaurants that were in their area, but they didn't seem to taste as fresh or as savory as they would like to eat on a regular basis. Not only that, but the founders also wanted to create a space that was fun and inviting for people to come enjoy the delicious food, unlike the majority of the diners and other restaurants that they frequented. The rest, obviously, became history, as the chain has made a name for itself in so many parts of the country today.
This may sound like a crazy made up word, but it is actually something that the Zaxby's company stands by. They believe that everyone is unique, and is made up of special qualities that make everyone who they are as a person (which is, of course, very true!). That's why the restaurant chain now has a quiz that you can take on their website that will tell you exactly what your 'saucenality' is; Essentially, the quiz tells you some combinations of sauces that you might like the next time you come in and order some chicken based on your answers. We think that this is pretty genius, to be honest.
16. Concise And Precise Menu
While their menu has, for the most part, stayed rather consistent in the past twenty nine years that the business has been up and running, they have worked hard to adhere to customer response and follow other trends as well. The menu itself mostly centers around delicious chicken entrees and finger food, but they have also expanded options by offering different sandwich options that you can eat, along with salads, appetizers, and as we've mentioned before, their signature sauce.
17. Not Much Out West
As we have eluded to previously in our article, their expansion over the past few decades has been fairly significant, but they still have some growth to be had. The majority of their locations are in the Southeastern region of the country, which stretches all the way from Texas to Florida, up to Kansas and Missouri, and all the way over to the Carolinas and West Virginia. If you live on the West Coast, you are going to be out of luck unfortunately (the closest state out West to try out a Zaxby's is in Utah). So, if you are ever headed to the Southeast, definitely hit up a Zaxby's!
18. Take It To Go
One of the best things about the majority of restaurants chains that are in business today is that many of them offer catering services to bring the best of the best to your home or to your next event. Zaxby's has recently added the catering option with some of the menu items as well, and there is nothing that quite beats the great taste of flavorful chicken and a wide range of sauces when you can enjoy them in the comfort of your home.
19. Little To No Controversy
This is another amazing standard and/or goal to live up to, especially in the restaurant industry. Zaxby's has had literally quite little to no controversy in its three decade history (knock on wood). While they may receive the occasional complaint on a review site, they have had no legal issues throughout the entirety of their business and company, which is a lot considering the multitude of companies (both in the food industry and otherwise) who have had their bouts of scandal.
20. Zax's Club
Another cool feature with the company is the Zax Club that they have recently created for an even better customer experience. There are two ways to 'subscribe' (either by mail or text), and it allows you to get the inside scoop on all things Zaxby's, including specials, location openings, menu changes, promotions, and even a few coupons along the way. Zaxby's is a chain that has always been focused on the guest experience, whether it was toward the food, the atmosphere, or all the other details in between that make a meal out one of a kind, and this addition to their services is just proving their dedication further.
It is clear to see why Zaxby's has been able to make a name for themselves as the years have gone on. With their outstanding customer service and atmosphere, to their attention to flavor and likeness, to their slow but steady approach to expansion and leadership, the restaurant chain has been able to set an example for others in the nation. There are always new locations for Zaxby's opening, and we hope to see the company soon make its way throughout all of the States.
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker